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The Papal Gentlemen, also called the Gentlemen of His Holiness, are the lay attendants of the pope and his papal household in Vatican City. They serve in the Apostolic Palace near St. Peter's Basilica.
Formerly known as Papal Chamberlains of The Sword and Cape (Cameriere di spada e cappa) before the Second Vatican Council, many came from families that had long served the Papal Court over the course of several centuries, while others were appointed as a high honor, one of the highest the Papacy conferred on Catholic laymen (often prominent politicians or wealthy philanthropists). They were originally selected from members of Italian royal and aristocratic families. Many of the current Papal Gentlemen come from families that have served the Popes for centuries. However, the rarely conferred title is now awarded to Catholic laymen throughout the world upon recommendation from bishops to the Pope.
From the days of Pope Leo I (440-461) the pontifical household had included papal chamberlains who were personal attendants on the Pope in his private apartments. The number of papal chamberlains was never large, although their proximity to the Pope meant that many chamberlains would enjoy notable ecclesiastical careers and some were even promoted to the episcopacy. Their privileges were considerable. They ranked ex officio as Lateran counts, Knights of the Golden Spur (Order of the Golden Militia), and nobles of Rome and Avignon. Prior to Vatican II they provided personal assistance to the Pope on formal state occasions as members of the Papal Court. They were required to serve for at least one week per year during official ceremonies, and took part in Papal processions behind the Sedia Gestatoria, each wearing formal court dress and distinguished by a golden chain of office. Traditionally, priests who were given the title of Papal Chamberlains were addressed as "Very Reverend Monsignor", and the higher degrees as "Right Reverend Monsignor". Today, this title has been abolished for clergy with current monsignoral titles being limited to three: Protonotraies Apostoliic; Prelates of Honour and Chaplains of His Holiness. All are styled simply "Reverend Monsignor".
Notable Papal Chamberlains
- Christopher de Paus
- Franz von Papen
- Jan Czarnowski
- Al Smith
- Hartwell de la Garde Grissell
- Count John McCormack
- Joseph Bernardin